XENIA — A forensic pathologist testifying for the prosecution in a felonious assault and murder case Tuesday ruled the March 8, 2018 death of a 6-week-old baby as a homicide.
Dr. Susan Brown, from the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, said she determined — in her opinion — that the cause of death in the Fairborn case was blunt force injuries to the head and the manner of death was homicide.
“With all of the information provided leading up to his death, it is death at the hands of another,” Brown said.
That person, the prosecution says, is Kali Christon, 23, who is on trial this week in Judge Michael Buckwalter’s courtroom.
The story told in court on Monday — first by attorneys, then by witnesses — was told again in day two of the trial, this time by different mouths.
It’s a story that allegedly came first from Christon: Christon fell asleep with the baby on his chest, and when he woke up, placed the baby at the foot of the bed. He woke up later to the baby crying and went downstairs to make him a bottle. When he returned to give the bottle to the baby, he wouldn’t take it. Then he went limp in his arms. CPR, then professional medical aid, didn’t revive him.
As Assistant Prosecutor Bill Morrison showed autopsy photos to the jury, Brown described the extent of the injuries she found. These included multiple bruises on the face and head, a cut in the mouth and hemorrhages in the brain and eyes. “Blunt force injuries” to the torso and extremities included more bruising, plus fractured ribs, which were likely due to CPR, Brown testified. But it was the injuries to the victim’s brain that caused his heart to stop, she said.
The child’s mother also took the stand, testifying that she got a call from Christon at 3:14 a.m. the morning of the incident. She said she had dropped off her son at his house while she worked.
“He said he thinks I need to get over to [the] house because [the baby’s] not breathing. I didn’t think it was real so I ran into my mom’s room and grabbed her,” she said.
The baby’s grandmother testified that she woke up and said, “What is he calling you for, why doesn’t he call 911?”
A 911 call was placed at 3:17 a.m., according to the dispatch record.
During an interview, Christon told Fairborn Detective Ryan Whittaker that he had waited 30 to 45 minutes before telling another adult in the house about the baby’s unconsciousness, the detective said.
“He thought he could bring the child back and that was the reason he chose not to call 911 (immediately),” Whittaker said to the court, recalling the conversation.
Whittaker testified that during a second interview, once he told Christon of the pathologist’s findings, Christon changed some of his answers. According to Whittaker, Christon said first that he was the only one caring for the baby and that no one could have dropped the baby, then later that others in the home may have watched or dropped the child.
“When I directly accused him, telling him that I believed he had shaken the baby, his response was ‘damn,’ ” Whittaker said.
When asked by Defense Attorney Griff Nowicki, Whittaker said Christon was cooperative throughout both interviews.
Detectives also recorded a controlled call between the baby’s mother and Christon, and gathered their texts and Facebook messages.
“I just have so many questions. I need answers,” one message from the mother stated.
“I was with him the night he stopped breathing so why don’t you ask me,” Christon answered.
“ … I just need to know you didn’t close his mouth,” another message from the mother shows, with Christon replying that he did not.
The baby’s mother then explained to attorneys that Christon would sometimes get frustrated with the child’s crying. She said she had seen him tilt the child’s chin back or “hold his mouth closed.”
Nowicki asked the mother if she had left the child with Christon before, if she had no problem leaving him alone with him, and if he had given appropriate care to the child in the past; she responded “yes” to each.
In another message, the mother questioned why Christon didn’t cry at the hospital.
Nowicki later asked one of Christon’s family members to describe his general demeanor.
“Just really laid back and kinda nonchalant,” the woman replied.
“All the time, even in stressful situations?” Nowicki asked.
“Yes,” she responded.
Testimony continues 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.